It does not exonerate him
“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” William Barr, U.S. Attorney General, March 24.
In July 2016, the FBI began an investigation into Russian interference in the ongoing presidential election. As part of that investigation, several individuals in the Donald Trump campaign were found to have had numerous ongoing contacts with Russian officials and lied about those contacts. One of these was soon-to-be National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
On Feb. 14, 2017, Republican President Trump asked Trump-appointed registered independent FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn. Comey declined.
On May 9, 2017, Trump fired Comey. On May 11, Trump said, in a televised interview with Lester Holt of NBC News, “I was going to fire Comey knowing, there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.”
On May 17, Trump-appointed Republican Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Republican Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI, to be special counsel in the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference. On May 23, the Trump Department of Justice ethics experts, under the direction of Trump-appointed Republican Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said Mueller had no conflicts and could function as special counsel.
In response to this appointment, the Republican-controlled Congress reacted positively.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the appointment “confirms that the investigation into Russian intervention into our election will continue.”
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said, “My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations are allowed to follow the facts wherever they may lead…. The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal.”
“For the sake of the country, all parties must fully cooperate with his efforts,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said. (Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2017)
The chief investigators involved were all Republicans, approved by the Republican Congress, most appointed by Trump. From this, Trump has concluded that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was a deep, dark, Democratic-led attempted coup d’état to overthrow the elected president of the United States. Boggles the mind.
What has the Muller investigation actually found? So far, “…the former FBI director has indicted, convicted or gotten guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies, including top advisers to President Trump, Russian spies and hackers with ties to the Kremlin. The charges range from interfering with the 2016 election and hacking emails to lying to investigators and tampering with witnesses.” (TIME, March 24, 2019)
If this is a witch hunt, it’s caught a lot of witches so far.
The scope of the investigation was to determine if the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. That the Russians did interfere is established fact, despite Russian President Putin’s denials and Trump’s inexplicable acceptance of Putin’s word. The question was, did Trump or his people conspire in this interference, and did Trump try to obstruct justice by interfering in the investigation of this Russian interference?
Mueller’s report is around 400 pages long, covering almost two years of investigation. Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney General Barr said, in his four page summary letter, “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities….While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
On March 24, Trump tweeted, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION.” This is a lie, as are so many of his statements. Sadly, Trump’s followers will believe him, even though the Mueller report doesn’t exonerate him. In Trump World, truth is irrelevant.
Trump has already been convicted twice for tax fraud (The Nation, Oct. 12, 2018). Investigations continue in several jurisdictions, including investigations into his business dealings, his campaign finances, his inaugural committee finances, his charitable foundation, his federal tax returns, and his New York state tax returns.
Only in Trump World could this be seen as a Democratic conspiracy. Our hope for the country is that there are enough honorable Republicans left who will look at actual facts and make the best decisions for America. For those of us who respect truth, these investigations are exposing a man who spent his life defrauding people. Maybe justice is finally catching up with Trump.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.